Trio of homers helps Fister cruise against Mets

Trio of homers helps Fister cruise against Mets

NEW YORK -- The Tigers stepped to the plate on Friday not knowing what to expect. Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn't pitched on a Major League mound since October, and until Friday spent this season pitching for Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate. The type of arsenal Matsuzaka currently possesses was a mystery.

Detroit found out quickly and took advantage.

"I didn't know what to expect," Torii Hunter said. "I just went up there and tried to see how his ball was moving and different things like that. I was able to capitalize on some mistakes that he made."

Hunter's first-inning solo home run sparked the Tigers' offense, which followed the right fielder's lead. Detroit scored five runs in the first two innings, including a long three-run home run off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, to cruise to a 6-1 victory over the Mets.

Austin Jackson also had a solo home run in the seventh inning, his 11th of the season.

Doug Fister hardly needed all that support. The right-hander allowed one run on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked two batters while striking out four to earn his 11th win of the season.

The Mets signed Matsuzaka on Thursday after the Indians granted him his release Tuesday and immediately slid him into the rotation to start Friday's series opener against the Tigers, who provided Fister with a cushion before he took the mound.

"For me, it's constantly a 0-0 ballgame in my head, but it's definitely a team lifter and definitely a confidence booster for the team," Fister said. "Everybody is able to play loose and play together."

With one out in the first inning, Hunter homered into the left-field stands. Then Cabrera and Prince Fielder each singled, but Matsuzaka retired Victor Martinez and Don Kelly to end the inning.

But Detroit continued slugging in the second.

Omar Infante led off the frame with a single, and two batters later, Fister moved him over to second with a sacrifice bunt. Jackson walked, and Hunter hit a ground-rule double to drive in Infante, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Then Cabrera delivered the hit that would essentially seal the win for Detroit.

"Cabrera is a tough hitter to face for any pitcher," Matsuzaka said. "It was hard to figure it out how to face him."

Matsuzaka said he threw a two-seam fastball that wasn't necessarily a bad pitch, but Cabrera's simply a remarkable hitter. The third baseman crushed the offering into the left-field stands for a three-run home run -- his 41st of the season -- to put Detroit up, 5-1.

"We focus on that," Cabrera said, "getting run support to our pitchers and trying to get a chance to win."

This was Cabrera's 19th game this season with three or more RBIs, which leads the Major Leagues and is tied for fourth most by a Detroit player in a season since 1916. It's also the most in the big leagues since Ryan Howard finished with 21 three-plus RBI games in 2009.

"Cabrera came through with the big three-run homer to give us a little cushion," Hunter said. "It was a comfortable lead, but in baseball, no lead is safe."

The way Fister pitched, though, this lead was plenty safe.

The Mets scored their only run against Fister on an RBI single by Marlon Byrd in the first inning, limited by the right-hander the rest of the way.

Fister allowed consecutive two-out singles to Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares in the fourth inning, then retired Travis d'Arnaud to end the inning. Fister also allowed a leadoff double to Byrd in the sixth and gave up a single to Flores two batters later.

But Fister again worked out of trouble by getting Lagares to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Starting at catcher for the first time in two years, Martinez showed no signs of rustiness behind the plate. He and Fister were in sync, and it showed as Fister stifled the Mets' lineup.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland started Martinez -- normally the team's designated hitter -- so the team didn't lose his bat in the National League ballpark.

"He did great," Leyland said. "He caught the ball well, he made a couple nice plays, he blocked the ball well. He did fine."

Matsuzaka has had success against Detroit during his career. Entering Friday's game, he was 4-1 with a 3.19 ERA in six starts against the Tigers. But those starts were back when Matsuzaka was a solid starter for the Red Sox. His last win against Detroit came on June 2, 2009.

The hot-hitting Tigers made sure he didn't pick up another win against them.

"You never know when you haven't seen a guy for a while, but I thought we did a good job," Leyland said. "We did what we do when we're pretty good: We hit it in the gaps and over the fence, and that's what we did."

Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.